- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

TORONTO (AP) — Matt Riley never thought it would take this long to get his first major league win.

Riley returned to the major leagues after a four-year absence and led the Baltimore Orioles over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 yesterday.

“It feels great. It’s been a long road back since 1999. I figured I’d get this win a long time ago,” Riley said.

Riley (1-0) allowed two runs and four hits in five innings, struck out four and walked three. The 24-year-old left-hander had not pitched in the major leagues since Sept.30, 1999, against the New York Yankees, and was 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 13 starts this season with Class AAA Ottawa.

“I felt like I belonged out there today. In ‘99, I wasn’t quite ready,” Riley said. “I was really nervous. I remember I balked twice in my first start. Today, my team scored three runs in the first for me, and that took the edge off a lot.”

Riley was on the fast track to success in 1999, when he made his major league debut with Baltimore in only his second professional season. He made three starts that September — his only big leagues appearances before yesterday. The following spring, the 21-year-old arrived late for several practices.

He struggled in 2000 and missed the 2001 season after elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said Riley has matured.

“He’s grown up and settled down,” Hargrove said. “He wasn’t a wild man, don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t a bad kid, but he was real hyper all the time. He was a true left-hander.”

Riley said he’ll give the game ball to his mother.

“I’m sure they are waiting for me to call,” he said.

Jay Gibbons hit a two-run homer for Baltimore, which stopped a four-game losing streak.

Cory Lidle (12-13) allowed five runs and seven hits in seven innings for Toronto, which had won four straight.

“I’m going to take positives out of the outing. I felt good about it,” Lidle said.

Baltimore took a 3-0 lead in the first on RBI singles by Larry Bigbie and Tony Batista, and a run-scoring grounder by B.J. Surhoff.

Josh Phelps homered in the second, his 20th of the season. Riley didn’t allow another hit until Dave Berg singled in the fifth. Reed Johnson followed with a single, and Mike Bordick had an RBI single.

Gibbons homered off the left-field foul pole in the sixth.

Baltimore reliever Omar Daal allowed Carlos Delgado and Phelps to reach in the eighth, but Kerry Ligtenberg retired Bobby Kielty on a flyout, and B.J. Ryan struck out Eric Hinske. Tom Wilson then grounded out.

Jorge Julio finished for his 33rd save in 40 chances.

Notes — The Orioles haven’t announced whether outfielder Melvin Mora will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, but Mora is walking around with crutches and has a soft cast around his left knee. Mora crashed into the right-field wall while trying to make a catch on Saturday. He was taken to a hospital for X-rays and an MRI exam, and is to be re-examined in Baltimore today. … Baltimore center fielder Luis Matos is day to day with a strained left hamstring. … Hinske leads AL third basemen with 21 errors.

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